I stumbled onto this list of writers’ guidelines over at Clarkesworld Magazine, and I thought this list of sci-fi and fantasy cliches was so impressive I had to share.
Though no particular setting, theme, or plot is anathema to us, the following are likely hard sells:
* stories in which a milquetoast civilian government is depicted as the sole obstacle to either catching some depraved criminal or to an uncomplicated military victory
* stories in which the words “thou” or “thine” appear
* talking cats
* talking swords
* stories where the climax is dependent on the spilling of intestines
* stories where FTL travel is as easy as is it on television shows or movies
* time travel too
* stories that depend on some vestigial belief in Judeo-Christian mythology in order to be frightening (i.e., Cain and Abel are vampires, the End Times are a’ comin’, Communion wine turns to Christ’s literal blood and it’s HIV positive, Satan’s gonna getcha, etc.)
* stories about rapist-murderer-cannibals
* stories about young kids playing in some field and discovering ANYTHING. (a body, an alien craft, Excalibur, ANYTHING).
* stories about the stuff we all read in Scientific American three months ago
* stories where the Republicans, or Democrats, or Libertarians, or the Spartacist League, etc. take over the world and either save or ruin it
* your AD&D game
* “funny” stories that depend on, or even include, puns
* sexy vampires, wanton werewolves, or lusty pirates
* zombies or zombie-wannabes
* stories originally intended for someone’s upcoming theme anthology or issue
* stories where the protagonist is either widely despised or widely admired simply because he or she is just so smart and/or strange
I’d like to add sideplots that exist just to get all the characters naked (I’m looking at you, Piers Anthony), and XKCD’s made-up words rule.